Cancer Before Treatment | MouthHealthy - Oral Health Information from the ADA

Cancer Before Treatment

Taking Care of Your Teeth Before Treatment

Photo of a dentist examining a patient

If your mouth is not as healthy as possible prior to your cancer treatment, you may be more susceptible to infection. If the infection is serious enough, it can delay treatment.

Here are some dental health tips to consider before undergoing cancer treatment:

Visit Your Dentist

Your dentist can evaluate your dental health and discuss which treatment options you should consider prior to starting cancer treatment. By treating areas of concern you may reduce possible dental side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Some treatment options may include fluoride treatments to prevent cavities, filling existing cavities, treating gum disease, removing infected teeth or restoring crowns or bridge work to ensure you will be able to chew your food.

Brush Regularly

Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can soak your extra-soft toothbrush in warm water to make it softer, and don’t forget to brush your tongue!


Floss once a day. This helps remove plaque between teeth. If your gums are sore or bleeding, be gentle and avoid those areas, but floss in between the rest of your teeth.

Don’t Use Tobacco

Tobacco products are harsh on your body – especially your mouth health. Stopping the use of tobacco may help your body heal faster.

Eat Nutritious Foods

Eating healthy foods rich with vitamins and nutrients can help boost your immune system. Your individual nutrition and calorie needs depend on your age, gender, level of physical activity and other health factors. According to MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet should include: Fruits and vegetables, grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Vary your protein choices to also include eggs, beans, peas and legumes. Eat at least eight ounces of seafood a week.

Rinse Your Mouth Often

This will help keep food and debris off of your teeth and gums. Avoid rinses that have alcohol in them. Rinsing often, along with regular brushing and flossing, may help to reduce the chance of dental decay and infection. Rinsing is also helpful after vomiting to keep the acids from damaging the enamel on your teeth. You may also want to reduce eating citrus fruit or other high acid foods.

Rinsing solution ideas from the National Institutes of Health:

  • 1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup (8 ounces of water)
  • One half teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons baking soda in 4 cups of water